Treating animals humanely in meat packing plants is good for animals and good for business. AMI applauds Burger Kingís decision to embrace the Instituteís 1997 Good Management Practices for Animal Handling and Stunning. The cornerstone of these GMPs is a self-audit program to ensure that livestock in packing plants are handled humanely to minimize stress, and stunned properly to ensure that they feel no pain during the slaughter process.
Burger Kingís decision to require that meat packers embrace these GMPs will pose little challenge for the meat industry, which already has these practices in place. A survey of AMI members completed in Spring 2001 showed that at least 92 percent of beef and pork slaughterers already conduct self-audits voluntarily. Self-auditing plants say they have seen significant improvements in both livestock handling and meat quality as a result of these efforts.
Surveys in U.S. meat plants by livestock handling expert Dr.Temple Grandin in 1996, 1999 and 2000 (www.grandin.com) show sustained and dramatic improvements in animal handling and stunning. The meat industry is proud of what it has accomplished and is continually seeking new ways to improve handling and stunning. In fact, in 1999, AMI launched the first stand-alone workshop to educate meat plant employees about optimal welfare practices. The workshop is now an annual event that is met with overflow crowds. In 2002, AMI will expand the workshop to include curriculum on poultry handling and stunning.
Petitions to USDA by Burger King this week and two other groups last week seeking enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act are largely unnecessary because the Act is enforced every day in meat packing plants by USDA's 7,000 inspectors. AMI supports full enforcement because the industry believes that ensuring optimal handling and stunning should be a cooperative effort between the industry - whose job it is to implement good welfare programs - and the government - whose job it is to oversee these efforts and take action when problems occur.
AMI agrees that both industry and government all can benefit from ongoing educational efforts about animal handling and stunning. We welcome involvement from all sectors of the livestock, meat and restaurant industries and the U.S. government in our educational programs. The changes in animal handling and stunning practices in our industry over the last five years have been dramatic and have proven that voluntary audit efforts and training by industry have distinct benefits for animals, for product quality, for employee safety and morale and ultimately for business.
For more information on AMIís animal welfare initiatives, visit www.Meatami.com. Choose "press center" and go to the fact sheets section to download AMIís Animal Welfare Kit.
AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.